Wood case remains unsolvedPublished 2:02pm Tuesday, February 20, 2007
By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Two decades after the murder of Roxanne Leigh Wood, family members and police are urging anyone who knew her to come forward.
Det./Sgt. Fabian Suarez of the Michigan State Police Niles Post 53 said he thinks the case could be one solid tip away from being solved.
Roxanne's brother, Brad Woods of Niles, agreed, and said the case is becoming more frustrating as the years pass.
"It's difficult to be that close after this many years and not be able to get the closure," Woods said.
Today marks 20 years since Terry Wood came home to find his wife murdered in the couple's Tam-O-Shanter Drive home in Niles.
Roxanne, 30 years old at the time, was found on the kitchen floor, apparently hit on the head with a kitchen pan and with her throat cut by a knife that was never recovered.
A phone message at Terry Wood's home was not returned. A request with Terry Wood's attorney, Peter Smith of Niles, for comments for this story was unsuccessful.
The original police report from that night said Terry and Roxanne were out at the former H.I.'s Old Towne Saloon in downtown Niles and later went to Whites' Bowling Lanes on South 11th Street. Roxanne went home first and when Terry arrived at the residence a short time after 1 a.m. his wife was dead on the floor, the report said.
Suarez said officers, including since-retired Det. Sgt. Jim Uebler, found no signs of forced entry into the home.
During the original investigation, more than 200 interviews were conducted, including one with Wood that was interrupted when Wood's family members hired attorney Peter Smith, who halted the interview, Suarez said.
"By law [Det. Uebler] had to stop the interview," Suarez said. "[Terry Wood] has never called (the state police) since his wife was murdered back on Feb. 20, 1987."
Though the empty knife sheath was found next to Roxanne's body, investigators never found the weapon used to murder her, even after diving for five hours during two days in the 38-degree water of Brandywine Creek, according to a February 1987 article in the Niles Daily Star.
Suarez said law enforcement officials investigating the case in 1987 agreed Wood was the main suspect.
Wood would later offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his wife's killer.
The case went inactive, Suarez said, but was reopened April 13, 1991. The case was again revisited April 16, 2001, when a Fifth District Cold Case Team re-opened the three bulging blue binders of files and investigated Roxanne's murder for six months, re-interviewing the same people as in 1987.
Suarez said the cold case team also determined Wood to be the main suspect, adding, "and that's my conclusion."
Berrien County Chief Prosecuting Attorney James Cherry was never comfortable going forward with the case, Suarez said.
The murder of Roxanne Wood was not the first cold case handled by Suarez. In 2000, Kevin Harrington was arrested, convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Eric Baich. Most recently in Cass County last year, Michael Dunnuck pleaded guilty to killing William Whitaker in 1993.
"In a fresh murder case, time is your enemy," Suarez said. "In a cold case, time can be your friend."
He added, "There's someone out there that knows something about this case … and it could break this case."
Brad Woods said he is in contact with Suarez about every other month inquiring about any new developments into his sister's murder. He said he would like for anyone who knew Roxanne – a lifelong resident of Niles – to come forward and talk with police.
"It could be something as simple as saying, 'I used to see Roxanne go to lunch with so and so,'" Woods said. "It's not like they're on trial, [the police] just want to be able to know who was on her list of friends."
Woods also said he would like State Police to have access to more money to verify accuracy of DNA testing that was done as part of the investigation, but added he understands there are budget restraints.
"It's very frustrating," Woods said. "To think that the person responsible for taking her life has lived a life of freedom for 20 years, and we as a family has suffered for the last 20 years."